Before we can address the prevention of slips, trips, and falls (STFs), we need to first understand common causes. Slips, trips and falls may occur when there is a loss of traction between the shoe and the walking surface or inadvertent contact with a fixed or movable object.
There are a wide variety of situations that may cause slips, trips, and falls.
- Uneven walking surfaces
- Open furniture or file cabinet drawers
- Dry floors with powder, shavings or wood dust
- Wet or greasy floors
- Polished or freshly waxed floors
- Loose floor tiles, carpeting or mats
- Transitions from one floor type to another
- Missing or uneven floor tiles and bricks
- Irregular or Damaged steps
- No handrails for steps or elevated walking surfaces
- Sloped walking surfaces
- Electrical cords or cables
- Shoes with a foreign substance on the soles
- Shoes with little or no tread on the soles
- Damaged ladder
- Ramps and gang planks without skid-resistant surfaces
- Metal surfaces – dock and construction plates
- Weather hazards – rain, hail, frost, ice, sleet, snow
- Wet leaves or pine needles
Three of the six guidelines for a safer work environment will be presented below. Part 2 will cover three additional guidelines. Also, for additional Slips, Trips and Falls information see our article Statistics for Slips, Trips and Falls .
1. Create a Housekeeping Program
Good housekeeping is such a simple yet critical element for slips, trips, and falls prevention. If your facility’s housekeeping habits are lacking, the result is likely to be a higher incidence rates.
Proper housekeeping should be a matter of routine. It is an ongoing process that is simply performed as part of each worker’s daily performance. There are three basic steps you need to take to get started with an effective housekeeping program.
Plan accordingly – Know what will need to be done and who is going to perform each task. Define and communicate what the particular work area should look like when it is cleaned up.
Assign responsibilities – Specific tasks should be assigned to a specific person or group of workers. Each individual employee should also be responsible for cleaning up his/her area of work.
Implement a program – Implement a Housekeeping Program as part of the daily routine and hold employees accountable.
2. Eliminate Wet or Slippery Surfaces
Walking surfaces account for a significant percentage of injuries reported nationwide. It should be clearly communicated to all employees that spills of any kind should be cleaned up immediately. Create a spill procedure for taking the appropriate action when a spill occurs. This may include reporting the spill to a designated employee, department or cleaning the spill personally by following specific steps to ensure proper clean-up.
When weather conditions are wet, traction on outdoor surfaces can change drastically and those conditions can affect indoor surfaces as moisture is tracked in by pedestrian traffic. Traction control procedures should be constantly monitored for their effectiveness and updated as needed.
Parking lots and sidewalks should be kept clean and in good condition. When snow and/or ice are present on walking surfaces, remove or treat the areas immediately. If an area is not treatable because of continued accumulation, suspend use of the area. Display “Wet Floor” signs when needed. Use beveled edge, moisture-absorbent mats in entrance areas. The mats should have backing material that will prevent sliding. On floors with smooth surfaces, apply an anti-skid paint if possible.
3. Avoid Placing Obstacles in Aisles and Walkways
Injuries can be caused by tripping over obstacles, materials, clutter and equipment that has been placed in aisles, corridors, stairwells and entrance ways. Proper housekeeping techniques and constant monitoring of work and traffic areas is still the most effective control measure in avoiding the accumulation of these types of hazards. This means allowing time for cleaning the area by following policies or procedures that have been outlined in the Housekeeping Program. This is especially important where scrap materials or waste is an ongoing by-product of the work operation.
Avoid stringing electrical cords, cables, ropes or air hoses across hallways or in any designated aisle. All passageways, work areas, service areas and storerooms must be kept clean and orderly. In administrative areas, avoid leaving boxes, parts, files or briefcases in the aisles. Encourage safe work practices by closing file cabinets after use and picking up loose items from the floor.
Continual monitoring of the guidelines defined in the Housekeeping Program and periodic inspections are crucial to ensuring the safety of all employees and visitors from slip, trip and fall hazards.
Coming Soon - Part 2 with an additional three guidelines will be discussed.